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Gifts from Japan

Landscape Woodblock Prints go on View for First Time in 54 Years

NORFOLK, Va. (February 26, 2015) — In recognition of the vibrant sister city ties between Norfolk, Va., and Kitakyushu, Japan, the Chrysler Museum of Art presents an exhibition of exquisite and colorful 20th-century Japanese woodblock prints. Gifts from Japan: Landscape Woodblocks in the Shin-Hanga Style opens March 24, just in time to complement Cherry Blossom Festivals across Japan and in Washington, D.C., and Virginia Beach. The show will be on view in the Museum's Focus Gallery (G. 229) through July 26, 2015. Admission is free.

In 1959 Norfolk formed its first sister city partnership with Moji, now called Kitakyushu, a large port city in southern Japan. Two years later, in June 1961, Moji's mayor visited Norfolk and presented a set of 16 beautiful Japanese prints to the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences, which became the Chrysler Museum of Art in 1971. Now, more than a half-century after this donation, the works will be exhibited together for the first time.

"These prints are mesmerizing!" says Alex Mann, Brock Curator of American Art, who developed the exhibition. Mann discovered the woodcuts in a Museum prints-storage drawer in October 2014 during routine collections research. Impressed with their quality and condition, he was disappointed that the Museum's files contained little information about their makers or history. Further detective work revealed their creators, and research with newspaper archives at Norfolk's new Slover Memorial Library uncovered the story of their donation.

Created between 1926 and 1955, these color woodblock prints are products of the Shin-Hanga, or "New Prints," movement, which flourished in Japan throughout the early 20th century. Led by the painter Kawase Hasui (1883–1957) and the publisher Sh?zabur? Watanabe (1885–1962), this group revived the long-venerated tradition of color woodblock printmaking. Their works celebrate Japan's history and landscape through nostalgic depictions of ancient temples and old-fashioned agricultural practices. Typical is Hasui's Shin Bridge, Nikk? (1953), with a river rushing beneath a bright red lacquered bridge near one of Japan's most famous Shinto shrines.

The prints, however, are distinctly modern. Learning from European paintings, Shin-Hanga artists used linear perspective and shading to enhance the illusion of depth in their landscapes and immerse viewers in these poetic spaces. To depict the changing weather, times of day, and seasons, they pushed the art of color woodblock printmaking to new levels of complexity. For example, Spring in Daigo, Kyoto (1950)celebrates the changing seasons with its explosion of bright pink cherry blossoms in the foreground.

During the 1930s foreign audiences began to discover the beauty of Shin-Hanga prints, but throughout the mid-20th century, most American museums continued to collect primarily older 19th-century Japanese art. Norfolk's sister city partnership with Moji made it an exception—and a pioneer in Japanese-American relations. Moji's gift of Shin-Hanga prints made the city's museum an unexpected leader in modern Japanese art collecting. Featuring 12 prints by the great master Hasui, Gifts from Japan introduces visitors both to the Shin-Hanga movement and to this important chapter in local history.

"It's been exciting to attach names and faces to these prints," says curator Mann, "not just the names of master artists like Hasui, but also to Mayor Momotaro Yanagida from our Japanese sister city, who was honored with a reception here at the Museum on June 22, 1961." Having always remained in storage, the prints are in excellent condition, and their colors remain vibrant. "Decades after their donation, they offer a vivid window into the history, beauty, and magic of Japan," Mann says.

"This Museum owes its greatest debt to Walter Chrysler for his monumental 1971 donation of his art, but our collection strength is the result of many other gifts and relationships, as well," says Chrysler Museum Director Erik Neil. "This beautiful exhibition gives long overdue thanks to our friends in Japan."


All programs take place at the Chrysler Museum and are free, unless otherwise indicated.

Kodomo no hi: Children's Day
Saturday, May 9 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Chrysler echoes Japan's May festival with our own celebration of Gifts from Japan. Come make your own Japanese kite—a carp-shaped Koinobori. The fish streamers are a traditional sign of family strength and spirit.

Third Thursday: Sushi and Sake
Thursday, May 21 until 10 p.m.

A 6 p.m., learn how to make sushi from Chef Chris Boehme of Wisteria by Cuisine & Company and pick up some great recipes to try at home. The cash bar will include a sake tasting option and Wisteria will offer special Japanese-themed entrees this evening.

At 6:30 p.m., explore Gifts from Japan with Colin Brady, Asian art expert and Hermitage Museum Chief Curator, and Alex Mann, the Chrysler's Brock Curator of American Art, as they illustrate what makes the exhibition's Shin-Hanga prints both traditional and modern.

Cost: Free for Museum Members and students with current school ID, $5 for all others.

Free Family Day
Saturday, July 11 from 10 a.m.–3 p.m.
Our Summer Family Day focuses on the natural beauty on view in two of our popular exhibitions: The Artist's Garden and Gifts from Japan. The Chrysler's Family Day is generously sponsored by the Bunny and Perry Morgan Fund.

In addition, The Museum Shop also will feature a fine selection of Japanese-inspired stationery, books, and giftware.

Museum Members enjoy 10% savings on dining at Wisteria and on all purchases at The Museum Shop. Join on site or online at


The recently expanded Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia, is one of America's most distinguished mid-sized art museums, with a nationally recognized collection of more than 30,000 objects, including one of the great glass collections in America. The core of this collection was given to the Museum by Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., an avid art collector who donated thousands of objects from his private collection to the Museum in 1971. In the years since Chrysler's death in 1988, the Museum has dramatically extended its campus and developed new ties with the Norfolk community. It now has rapidly growing collections, especially in the fields of photography, American art, and contemporary glass. The Museum's Focus Gallery routinely displays highlights from the Chrysler's broad collection of prints, drawings, and photographs, as well as loan shows.
In 2011, the Chrysler opened a full-service glass studio with a 560-pound capacity furnace, a full hot shop, a flameworking studio, nine annealing ovens, and a coldworking shop. In addition, the Chrysler administers two Federal-period historic houses in downtown Norfolk: the Moses Myers House and the Willoughby-Baylor House.
The Chrysler Museum of Art, One Memorial Place, Norfolk, and its Perry Glass Studio at 745 Duke St., are open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. The Historic Houses on E. Freemason Street are open weekends. Admission is free. For more information on exhibitions, events, and programs, visit or call (757) 664-6200.

For more information or high-resolution images, contact Virginia Hilton at (757) 340-7425 or cell  (757) 232-2178, or



Contact Virginia Hilton
(757) 340-7425

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